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Orangutans (Pongo spp.) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding

Diet & Feeding


  • Fruits, leaves, bark, nuts, seeds, insects, and honey.
    • The Sumatran orangutan (P. abelii) is more frugivorous and insectivorous and eats less inner bark of trees than do Bornean orangutans (P. pygmaeus) (Wich et al. 2004)
    • More than 500 plant species recognized in diet of orangs
    • They have been described as "gardeners of the forest" for the role in seed distribution (Rijksen & Meijaard 1999)
  • Eating soil is not uncommon in the wild.
  • Very rarely observed eating small vertebrates (birds, lizards, rodents, slow loris).
  • Time spent foraging on different types of food varies greatly season to season.
  • When fruits are scarce, orangutans spend up to 90% of their foraging time eating shoots and leaves.
  • Water obtained mostly from the vegetation eaten; also by licking wet vegetation and fur on forelimbs.
  • Often exhibit bimodal pattern of foraging (morning and afternoon), separated by periods of rest.
  • Time spent foraging each day: 4.3 - 6.3 hours.

Gardeners of the Forest

an orangutan eating

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Fox et al. (2004)
Kaplan and Rogers, (1994)
Rijksen & Meijaard (1999)
Tuttle, (1986)
Wich et al. (2004)

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